Eastbourne all-weather lifeboat was launched just after midnight when a crewman fell overboard in gale force winds and violent seas from a passing tug five miles south of Sovereign harbour.
The tug Endurance, with two people on board, was on passage from Dover to Brighton
with a 60ft motor cruiser under tow when the man fell overboard. His colleague sent out a Mayday distress call which mobilised the rescue services.
Eastbourne ALB began the search close inshore off Beachy Head joined later by Coastguard Rescue helicopter 104. The two lifeboats continued their search throughout the night, but found nothing and abandoned the search after 9 hours at sea.